Regina Worlds: CAN vs SCO

Wow! That’s crazy!

by Jill Officer

REGINA – Too bad the 3-4 game wasn’t much of a match. Poor Swedish skip Niklas Edin struggled with the ice which has become straighter during the playoffs.

They still managed to have a bit of fun in the eighth and final end. Third Sebastian Kraupp showed off his crazy good balance and delivered his two rocks in a one-legged squat of sorts (see photo at left). The crowd loved it! Then Edin tried to duplicate Team Canada’s Jeff Stoughton with a flat-foot spin-o-rama… and while it wasn’t as sharp as Stoughton’s, it was still awesome to watch.

And so it was Norway versus Scotland in the semifinal. Norway was gaining speed and confidence – 7-0 and throwing some 86 per cent as a team after a poor start to the competition – and Scotland is coming off a loss to Canada.

Kim Brewster!

I noticed that Scottish Skip Tom Brewster is in the building well in advance of his games. I’m not sure if he’s done this all week, but before the 1-2 page playoff game and again before last night’s semi, he was in the building a couple of hours before game time. So what does he do? Basically, I’ve seen him wandering the halls in the bowels of the building, both inside the arena and on the concourse amongst the crowds. Interesting. I guess everyone has his or her own pre-game routine!

Did you know that Tom Brewster’s wife is Canadian? Yes, Kim Brewster was born in Edmonton and Tom simply wooed her to go to Scotland for him. And she was an original curling Calendar Girl, too!

Not only that, but her brother is Sean Morris, the husband of 2010 Olympic Silver Medallist Cori Morris, who played with Cheryl Bernard in Vancouver. Sean and Cori arrived in Regina yesterday to cheer on their brother-in-law.

So my week on the media bench is coming to an end, and I thought I’d share some reflections on how exhausting it is to be on the bench verses the exhaustion you feel when you actually play in an event such as the worlds.

Viewing the games from the tribune is great. You have front row seats; the internet is comfortably at your fingertips and you can still watch live and hear the TSN broadcast – so you get the benefits of live curling and broadcast TV. Sure, there is some writing and interviewing to do here and there, but it’s a good gig. How can you complain with all that… and all you can eat Tim Horton’s donuts.

Let's get pumped again!

However, for some reason, it is almost MORE exhausting than playing in an event like this! On Wednesday night, when Canada had the night off, I took the night off, too. By 8:00pm, I could hardly keep my eyes open!

Being up here is mentally exhausting. Perhaps it’s the lack of exercise to provide you with some energy; perhaps it’s the lack of pressure to perform. All I know is that it is very tiring. Competing in an event is very tiring as well, but when you’re out on the ice, you have to be energized, focused and ready to go and there is much less opportunity to zone out.

Team Scotland was much more zoned in during the semi-final against Norway than they were against Canada last night. Zoned in enough that they will again face Canada in tonight’s gold medal Game. What an accomplishment for Brewster and his young lads, because the Norwegians had simply been on fire.

Mr. Stoughton, by the way, has an interesting history with Scotland. He defeated a Scottish team in the final of the 1996 worlds, then lost to them in 1999, in that famous match against Hammy “Let’s Get Pumped” MacMillan (be sure to view starting at around at 1:10).

It could be a dandy today!

Crazy Kraupp photo by Anil Mungal, copyright The Curling News®
Kim Brewster photo by Ana Arce
Let’s Get Pumped Again photo by Michael Burns / CCA

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Regina Worlds: Youth Olympians

Youth Olympians headed to Innsbruck

by Jill Officer

REGINA – It was a packed house last night as Team Canada stepped on the ice. You couldn’t even hear the lone bagpiper during the pre-game march because of the loud Canadian fans.

In front of that same crowd, the Canadian Youth Olympic curling team was introduced at the fifth-end break. The Youth Olympics is a new initiative from the International Olympic Committee that is like the Olympics, but for youngsters between the ages of 16 and 18. The first Summer Youth Olympics was held last year in Singapore, so now the first Winter Youth Olympics will take place in Innsbruck, Austria in January of 2012.

“It was unreal,” said Thomas Scoffin, the skip of the team, after the introduction in front of the large Canadian crowd. “I’ve never been part of anything like that before.”

COME OOOONNNN!

The team, made up of two girls and two boys, was selected after a comprehensive process that combined on-ice performance at the recent Canada Winter Games as well as a formal application process – and that included a written essay, academic consideration, involvement in their communities and interest in other athletic and cultural activities.

Wow – I don’t know any curler that has to go through all that to get on a team! These guys, and gals, must be good!

The lucky athletes that were selected are Scoffin, who is from Whitehorse in the Yukon; Emily Gray of O’Leary, Prince Edward Island; Corryn Brown of Kamloops, BC and Derek Oryniak of Winnipeg.  The team leader and coach will be Helen Radford of Halifax. It was nice of the Canadian Curling Association to fly them all in for the on-ice presentation, which saw them march out in their different provincial jackets and then be presented with their new Team Canada colours!

The team will execute some preparations and team building in the fall leading up to the event. “We’re going to meet up a couple of times in the upcoming months,” Brown told me. “We need to figure out how everyone plays, and each of our different releases.”

This is interesting for a number of reasons. First of all, this is only the second Canadian national team that is selected – the other being the wheelchair curling team. All other national teams “win to get in” and there are always a few people calling for coaches and officials to select all-star teams for other competitions… like the regular Olympics.

Jon Mead shows Jeff Stoughton his “Hulk Face”

And here’s something really interesting: there will be two types of events taking place at the Youth Olys. The first is the regular mixed event, and the second will be… Mixed Doubles, which was not put forward by the WCF for Olympic consideration (this is important as five new disciplines were approved this week, from women’s skip jumping to things like team figure skating and mixed relay biathalon… but that’s another debate).

But the real twist is that these mixed doubles duos will be made up of two curlers from different countries! I wonder how that will work with language barriers?

The editor informs me that my fellow TCN columnist Roger Schmidt, who is based in Switzerland, wrote about the approaching Youth Olympics stuff almost two years ago, and commented at that time how the WCF was scrambling to get its member countries to ensure that they could even field a team. Apparently, that youth age curling bracket is really underdeveloped around the world, and that is easy to understand when we in Canada have a U18 championship that is a) combined with the U.S. and also includes teams from Japan, b) named after a charity and c) isn’t sanctioned by any official associations.

Sweden plans to rock hard today

Now back to the event we’re all watching right now!  The men’s worlds are down to the crunch. Whether I’m sitting on the media bench or competing down on the ice, I love playoff time. The music gets pumpin’ between ends, emcee extraordinaire Stu Brown entertains the crowd and the atmosphere is awesome.

Unfortunately, the Page playoff 1 vs 2 game itself wasn’t so awesome. Not that it was terrible, but it certainly didn’t have the entertainment value that people hope for in the playoffs. It was played reasonably wide open, and Scottish skip Tom Brewster missed a few late shots, and all that matters (to me!) is that Canada won and are into the world championship final on Sunday!

Earlier in the afternoon, the red-hot Norwegians beat the scrappy French 5-4 in a tiebreaker and will face Sweden in the Page 3 vs 4 game this afternoon. Earlier in the week, Team Thomas Ulsrud had to accompany Team Niklas Edin out onto the ice before their game against Canada, bow before them, and serve them with their brushes and curling shoes on bended knee… like servants! Pretty funny stuff, and all this was because of a bet the two teams made during a couple of pre-worlds practice games – and the Swedes won both games!

Something tells me today’s game, while friendly, will be taken very seriously. At stake is a spot in tonight’s semifinal (for the winners) while the losers will be bumped down to Sunday’s bronze medal match.

Anil Mungal photos copyright The Curling News® – click on image to increase size

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Classic Corngate Curling Video

Kevin Martin, circa 1991. We kid you not.

Huzzahs to our friend Bob Cowan at Skip Cottage Curling, the authority on all things Scottish in curling.

First, he recently launched a new blog design… and now, in recent months, he has begun transferring and posting all kinds of ancient videotaped curling footage onto the interweb. Oh joy.

In this posting today, Bob has showcased nearly 10 minutes of VHS footage from the 1991 Safeway World Men’s Curling Championship, featuring a young David Smith of Scotland and a remarkably young – and full-haired and moustached – Kevin Martin, the recent Olympic champion at Vancouver 2010.

As many curling fans are aware, this marked Martin’s adult debut on the world stage and, quite frankly, the peak of his unpopularity. This was mostly due to what we shall dub “Corngate”… and which we shall now explain.

In their round robin match, Martin trailed the Scottish team by a few points at the halfway mark, whereupon he and teammate Kevin Park pulled out corn brooms – the classic, original curling sweeping device – to give the ice surface some more, er, character. A move that was fully within the rules (at that time) but which was considered unethical by many… including the pro-Canadian crowd.

The expected rematch took place in the final, and once again the Scots took the early advantage and… again… the Edmonton squad pulled out the straw. The Winnipeg crowd was not appreciative of this move.

“Listen to the crowd booing and jeering. Quite right, too,” offers BBC commentator Richard Harding.

But the Scots had learned from this strategy, and with some help from some Canadian compatriots, they were prepared to counteract the sticky corn with hog hair brushes purchased from a local curling shop. Scotland went on to prevail, and captured their first world men’s championship in 24 years.

Fantastic stuff.

Click here for the Skip Cottage Curling story page, which will lead you to the video.

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Muirhead for Sick Kids

Toronto will soon be All About Eve

Big news is about to be revealed with regard to the new celebrity/charity curling event scheduled for June 4-5 in Toronto (see previous post).

The Curling News has learned that the phenom from Scotland –  2010 Olympian and world silver medallist Eve Muirhead – has been added to the roster of skips.

Muirhead and 2009 world junior champion teammate Anna Sloan will both be jetting across the Atlantic to the event, which supports the SickKids Foundation.

The pair join a field including Brad Gushue, Randy Ferbey and three-quarters of teams Jennifer Jones, Glenn Howard and Brad Jacobs, plus many more.

Muirhead is en route to this weekend’s legendary Bavarian Open Mixed in Oberstdorf, Germany and could not be reached for comment.

Co-organizer Peter Steski played coy, saying “We have a few exciting announcements still to come about this event.”

It will be Muirhead’s third trip to the Greater Toronto Area since last fall. In September, her British Olympic squad captured the Ontario Curling Tour Championship at Oakville, and in October her team returned to win the inaugural Three Nations Cup event at Mississauga’s Hershey Centre.

For a quick look at the extent of the young starlet’s growing fame, check this out.

[Eve Muirhead photo by Anil Mungal, copyright 2010 The Curling News]

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WCF dumps Canadian president; bails on rule changes

Caithness (left) and Harrison

In a stunning political curling drama, Canada’s Les Harrison, a former board member of the Canadian Curling Association who has been president of the World Curling Federation since 2006, was voted out of office today at the WCF Annual General Assembly held during the Capital One World Men’s Curling Championship in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

Scotland has once again returned to the president’s chair, as former vice-president Kate Caithness becomes the first-ever female WCF president.

As TCN correspondent Rodger Schmidt noted yesterday, this marks a rare occasion in which a sitting president has been ousted by a sitting vice-president.

Board member “At Large” Patrick Huerlimann, the 1998 Olympic champion from Switzerland who heads the WCF’s powerful Marketing and Communications Committee, moves into Caithness’ former VP role.

Yet another American, Andy Anderson, becomes Director of Finance – the third in a row, in fact.

In addition, the much-ballyhooed rules changes speeding like a freight train toward the sport – such as the adopting of eight-end games and the removal of round-robin tiebreakers and extra-ends – failed to materialize, and all remains as it was.

The official WCF news release follows.

_____________________________________________

CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, ITALY

7 April 2010

The World Curling Federation has elected Kate Caithness from Scotland as president. Caithness, who has been serving as Vice-President since 2006, was elected to the post, gathering more votes than Les Harrison who was seeking re-election, at the annual general meeting of the Federation in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

Kate Caithness becomes the first female president of the Olympic winter sport Federation of curling. She has been involved with curling since the early 1980s. From being President of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Ladies Branch (1997-1998), she moved on to get involved with the World Curling Federation.

Since 2000 she has been the driving force behind the World Curling Federation’s development of Wheelchair Curling and was instrumental in obtaining the admission of the sport into the Paralympic Winter Games programme in Turin in 2006.

Switzerland’s Patrick Hürlimann was appointed Vice-President, taking the role that Caithness has vacated. Canadian, Les Harrison, steps down as president.

Executive Board:

President: Kate Caithness (Scotland)
Vice-President: Patrick Hürlimann (Switzerland)
Director of Finance: Andy Anderson (USA)

Members at Large:
Graham Prouse (Canada)
Young C. Kim (Korea)
Leif Öhman (Sweden)
Niels Larsen (Denmark)

Among the other decisions made at the annual general meeting held during the Capital One World Men’s Curling Championship WCF Member Associations also voted to:
-    Not reduce the game from 10 ends to 8 ends
-    Maintain tiebreaker games to determine playoff teams
-    Keep extra ends
-    Reduce time outs to one 60 second coach interaction with the time clock running
-    Allow electric wheelchairs at WCF wheelchair curling events
-    Prohibit communications between the coach bench and anyone who is not sitting in that designated area.
-    Move the World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship and World Senior Curling Championships from April to the month of November, starting from November 2012

These decisions will be reflected in the new WCF rule book which will be issued on the 1st of June 2010.

In other business, Slovenia was accepted as the 46th member association of the World Curling Federation.

A presentation of a silver salver was made to former European Curling Federation President Malcolm Richardson – winner of the 2010 Elmer Freytag Award.

The next WCF General Assembly will take place on Thursday 9th December 2010 in Champery Switzerland.

[CCA photos by Michael Burns]

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Germany pins Canada in their foxhole

Canada skip Kevin Koe in Cortina

by Rodger Schmidt

CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy – Canada and skip Kevin Koe made it totally clear this morning that they are in charge of this World Championship, and that anything that is going to happen here is going to have to go through them.

Then, they went out and lost their other match of the day, 9-6, to Germany’s Andy Kapp… their first loss of the competition.

Earlier today, you see, they dispensed of Scotland with considerable ease to sit, for a while, in the only undefeated seat in the house. In case it is not clear to all, undefeated teams go to directly to the 1–2 “Page” playoff game and thus have the best route possible into the championship game.

The competition, ie. the other 11 nations, have largely accepted that Canada will be in the final, and have allowed their curiosity and calculation energies to focus on who the other three nations in the top four might be.

During their undefeated 6-0 streak, the Canadians went pretty much  unnoticed. Whatever do I mean by this?

First off, the International field is quite used to Canadian teams front-running the field. Often, the rest of the world uses this to their advantage; if everyone loses to the front runner it makes it easier to grab the number two spot, or even avoid a tiebreaker, in order to get in to the top four at all. In the round robin, it’s a sudden Canadian loss that often upsets the applecart, and spells trouble to the teams in the chase.

Secondly, it’s not that this Canadian team is unbeatable: the problem here is that no one has any idea about how to go about doing this. As good as Team Kevin Martin and Team Randy Ferbey have performed in championships gone by, it was possible to understand how you were being beaten, and to eventually come up with a plan to apply against it.

You always knew that these teams were in the building. They hid nothing in their conquest of opponents and this left hope and allowed for designing strategies that, on enough occasions, worked.

But Canada’s Kevin Koe usually shows nothing. The first six teams that fell to him came away with nothing. His team pretty much lies in a foxhole while you are battling, and steps out only when necessary. They make mistakes – but then they turn them into false hope with either a cold, deflating draw or a nasty laser strike. Then it is back into their disguise of not really being a fantastic curling squad.

Germany skip Andy Kapp

The question heading into the Germany game was how many hand grenades did they smuggle into Italy via their equipment bag, and can the field run them out of this weapon before the weekend? Most of the time, there seems to be insufficient strategic space within the painted confines of a 12-foot curling house in which one can plant three or four curling stones without Edmonton-made grenades obliterating them.

However tonight, Germany didn’t let Koe out of his foxhole – every time Koe stuck his head up, skip Andy Kapp made a huge placement shot, or got something in a place that Koe couldn’t get to. For the most part, it appears the Canadians left their grenades in the bunker (their hotel) and tried to win with sniper fire, and Kapp was able to deal with that.

Does this mean that Germany has them figured out? I personally don’t think so. But with four or so round robin games left, it does mean that Canada may not be able to remain incognito for the rest of the show.

Scotland, who have a pretty good seek and destroy game of their own, were still in good position after rebounding with an important win against Germany, along with the Ulsrudless Norway, whose only loss so far was rendered on them by Scotland.

Denmark and the USA are the next challengers on the list.

In the continuing political sideshow, today was a lobby day, with very few  official meetings taking place…. except for the one I spent some brief time at.

The European Curling Federation held an open meeting that turned out to be far more entertaining than probably intended. It makes sense for the European nation delegates (there are some 34 or more of them) to meet at these European locales, to review how they run their European Championships… of which there is a Junior, a Mixed, a Men’s and a Women’s.

What I did not expect today was a European Karaoke version of the Barenaked Ladies song If I Had a Million Dollars.

It has been clear for a very, very long time that this organization does not have a million dollars, and everyone I surveyed confirmed to me that they were not going to get a million dollars. The source that they have targetted from which to procure this “song” is the World Curling Federation, who at this point in time probably doesn’t have a million dollars either – though you may find it difficult to get an accurate answer on this question – but will soon have about 15 of them once the Vancouver Olympics settles the accounting.

They, however, are not going to give a fifteenth of this directly to anyone, and certainly not to an organization that they do not have any mandated obligation to. And therein lies the story on this one, even if it doesn’t answer the question I have tossed out in the past – and will again – whose money is this, anyway?

Finally, I was happy to be a part of a classy little event held by the United States Curling Association which honoured two of their contributors to our sport.

One is Warren Lowe, who is retiring from the board of directors of the WCF, and the other is Kay Sugahara, whom the USCA have inducted into their Hall of Fame as a builder.

Speaking of a million dollars, Sugahara has no doubt spent more than that in a lifetime of contributions to curling, through a host of endeavors over the past decades. No endeavor less significant than eventually, and single-handedly, keeping the World Championship alive through the mid-1980s, when some significant hard times hit the world of curling.

See you on Black Wednesday!

[WCF photos by Urs Raeber]

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The Eve Muirhead Parade

Click on montage to increase size

If you’ve been stuck in a cave somewhere, you may actually be unaware that the world has gone completely gaga over Scotland’s 19-year-old Olympic curling superstar, Eve Muirhead.

This blog hasn’t published too much on her in the recent past, such as when the frenzy first picked up this past fall and February. But that’s only because the “quick links” we used to feature here are now posted to our Twitter feed, located here, which passed the 3,000-post mark last month.

We did cover some of her junior exploits, in 2008 and also in 2009, and we did (sheepishly) promote a “vote for the hottest female curler at the worlds” blogpost last year, in which Muirhead finished third (a more recent poll from Swift Current 2010 saw her place first).

We also noted her team’s Summer 2009 training regimen, which saw them jumping off rocks on the island of Cyprus. We kid you not.

And we talked about her team’s hot start to the 2010 Olympic season… and her appearance at the Three Nation’s Cup in west Toronto… et cetera.

But the Olympic frenzy over this talented – and quite mature – star-in-waiting has largely been saved for both the March and April print editions of The Curling News, as well as our Twitter feed. For example, we were first to note, almost a month ago, that Eve would be jetting to New York City in early April to take part in “Dressed To Kilt”, a famed fashion and cultural celebration of all things Scottish.

While it must have been frustrating to consume soft drinks while all around her were quaffing whiskey – New York’s age of majority is 21 – the young starlet was probably thrilled to rub shoulders with Hollywood celebrities. Yesterday’s turn on the fashion catwalk was noted in these Getty Image pics taken by Andrew H. Walker, which we are showcasing at left (click to increase size of the montage).

A tip of the chapeau to our friends at Skip Cottage Curling, who were the first to locate a Getty pic, and also the first to point to this Daily Record photo shoot, which captured Muirhead and her lovely silver lasses on the curling ice in evening gowns.

Finally, we direct you to this Eve Muirhead fan page on Facebook, which boasts over 7,500 fans and which also showcases numerous articles and images of devotion to Eve, from Japanese illustrations to this magazine link which puts her 14th on a list of over 130 global “sexy female celebs”.

So there you have it. We have more obviously joined the frenzy, we suppose… don’t you just love a parade?

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New Norway Curling Pants

Yes, the secret is out. And our eyeballs hurt.

The secret is out!

The latest version of the Norwegian Curling Team Pants is set to hit the ice in gorgeous Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy this Saturday.

The event, of course, is the 2010 Capital One World Men’s Curling Championship. And the originators of the Pants Craze, Thomas Ulsrud‘s Olympic silver medallists from Norway, open their campaign at 14:00 CET against Scotland’s Warwick Smith.

The only question is: will it be the blue and white checkered pattern for Game 1, or the swirling multicoloured… flowers?

“I just follow the fashion police,” is all that skip Ulsrud has to say, nodding to teammate Christoffer Svae. The burly second thrower (second from right in the John Hauge photo at left) is the one who found the pants, made his teammates wear them during the first Olympic practice in Vancouver… and the rest is history.

“I must admit that when I saw 10 cameras following us in that first practice, I thought: ‘This was a good idea then, Christoffer,’ ” Svae told Norway’s Aftenposten.

The blue and white pants were worn by Norway’s junior men’s team at the World Juniors in Champery, Switzerland earlier in March. Norway’s Paralympic wheelchair curlers then followed up with a tealish-blue and white pattern in Vancouver, plus Ulsrud’s original Olympic design, and of course the Norwegian women’s team went full-on bonkers with a wild, spotty “disco” pattern last week in Saskatchewan (photo can be seen here).

As reported a few weeks ago on The Curling News Twitter feed, Team Norway has since inked a sponsorship deal with Loudmouth Golf, the U.S. manufacturers of the pants.

Stay tuned to The Curling News for more info on Team Ulsrud, the Cortina Worlds and so much more in this fantastic 2010 curling season.

It ain’t over yet, folks!

[Aftenposten photo by John Hauge. Click to increase size]

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Honourary Scot crushes GBR dream

With hundreds of Vancouver 2010 photos pouring in from ace TCN photographer Anil Mungal, this archived pic from 2008 seems an odd one to showcase today.

The truth is, Sweden’s Niklas Edin (middle) played with Team David Murdoch not once, but twice, in the Continental Cup championships of 2007 and 2008. That’s Murdoch third Ewan MacDonald at left, and lead Euan Byers at right. He replaced regular Murdoch second Peter Smith on both of those Canadian event junkets. Played very well, too.

As the world now knows, its Team Sweden which dispatched Great Britain’s defending world champions yesterday in the Olympic tiebreaker, and meets Canada’s Team Kevin Martin in a semifinal later today, at 2pm Pacific time.

This was an epic loss for Murdoch’s men. For much of the fall the team struggled on the ice, particularly from injuries to Smith and Murdoch, and they failed to make the medal round at the European championships, after back-to-back wins in 2007 and 2008.

It was old friend Edin, who two years ago didn’t have a sniff of making it to the Olympics – and who still likes to say that his team is simply building for Sochi 2014 – who took Murdoch’s 20009 Euro title.

Then, the “Scottish Brits” started to turn it around. A qualifying paycheque at a Capital One Grand Slam event was followed up by that popular win at the Casino Rama Skins Game. This made for a great January.

Then it was off to Calgary for pre-Olympic training, on specialty ice made by Olympic ice technician Hans Wuthrich (which resulted in a formal letter being sent to Wuthrich by the Canadian Curling Association) and with special stones actually shipped in from Scotland.

But it was not meant to be. Edin’s young troops manhandled Murdoch in the very first match 10 days ago, and then withstood a strong Scottish comeback yesterday afternoon to pip the lads in the extra end.

And only Murdoch and Byers, the holdovers from the 2006 team at Turin, will be able to say – in time – which Olympic Games feels worse.

Is it winning a bunch in row only to lose your last four games (and a medal) a la Turin, or scrapping back and forth through the round-robin only to lose a chance at the medal round altogether, as happened in Vancouver?

One thing is certain: the CAN-GBR round-robin tilt was a barnburner, and fans may feel deprived of a semifinal barnburner as the Murdoch-Martin history is well known. In contrast, the Canadians have simply mopped the floor with the Swedes in their last two matchups, by scores of 7-3 and 9-1.

No wonder the Canadians are confident.

[CCA photo by Michael Burns]

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